Most of the settlers of this period were attracted by Salt Creek. Water was a necessity, and so were the trees that grew along its banks. Helmut Berens recorded a Native American legend that this stream was known as Lovely Little River when it was the scene of romance between Pypegee, son of Shabbonah of the Potawatomis, and the fair maiden Winnewalla. Prosaic pioneers renamed it Salt Creek, of which there must be hundreds in the United States, each one so named because some wagoner lost a load of salt in its waters.
The legend dates at least to the 1857 "History of the County of DuPage, Illinois', by C. W. Richmond and H. F. Vallette, who state, "The stream received its name from this circumstance: A hooser team, loaded with salt, became 'stalled' while fording it, and the driver was obliged to lighten his load by rolling several barrels into the water." As we also have the name of the driver, John Reid, and his destination, Galena, the story seems well authenticated.
Our historic Salt Creek, though tamed by the engineers of the Twentieth Century, still flows through Proviso and York Townships (and others) on its way to the Des Plaines River. Its course through Proviso and York Townships can be trace on the survey maps found at York Township Ownership -- 1870s and Proviso Land Ownership in 1863.
The picture of the creek was taken off a bridge located at 800 Brainard Avenue, LaGrange Park and runs directly behind the home of Arthur Donald Degener. Arthur's grandfather was Heinrich Diedrich August Degener, son of Heinrich Degener, one of the builders of the Immanual Lutheran School in Proviso Township. The home is located at 812 Brainard Avenue, LaGrange Park. Picture provided by Lawrence Godson.
It is easy to be unaware of the significant length of Salt Creek. Like many small rivers it can swell during winter thaws and spring rains to be navigable, while becoming little more than a trickle through hot summer months. Waterways were important in the 19th Century as a source of fresh water, transportation and power for various milling operations. Animal trapping for furs was a common endeavor. All of these activity occurred along the banks of our Salt Creek.
Prior to the arrival of the 'white' settlers the Native Americans had long appreciated and benefited by the resources of Salt Creek. Several Native American villages existed along Salt Creek well into the 19th Century. To see the location of some of these Native American villages check the map on the Salt Creek -- Native American Villages page.
The modern day recreational value of Salt Creek is significant, but no less significant than its uses were to the 19th Century settlers.
Where Does Salt Creek Go?
Salt Creek has had it banks altered through the last 150 years, but its fundamental course remains unchanged.
The north branch of Salt Creek passes through the Deer Grove Forest Preserve, the Palatine Hills Recreation Area Irene Lake, Arlington Park and Rolling Meadows. The west branch of Salt Creek passes through Iverness and Schamburg. The north and west branches of the Salt Creek combine to form the ponds and lakes of the Ned Brown Forest Preserve.
Salt Creek continues south under Arlington Heights Road flowing through Lions Park, Jaycee Park, Olmstead Park, Morton Park and Burbank Park in Elk Grove Village before passing through Busse Woods. The Creek enters DuPage County (Devon Avenue) between Arlington Heights and Woodale Roads. The waters continue through Itasca, Wood Dale and the Salt Creek Forest Preserve.
Passing through the Elmhurst Country Club and under I-290 the Creek briefly enters Addison and Villa Park before entering Elmhurst and flowing along the west side of Route 83. It crosses under Route 83 near North Avenue and makes it way south through Elmhurst until crossing Route 38 (Roosevelt Road).
After passing through Oak Brook and the Butler National Golf Club, Salt Creek reaches Fullersburg Park and the historic Graue Mill. Turning east and then north in Hinsdale the Creek leaves DuPage County.
Entering Cook County via the Bemis Wood Forest Preserve the Salt Creek twists its way through LaGrange Park Woods and Possom Hollow Woods before reaching Mannheim Road/LaGrange Road south of Cermak Road. Cook County Preserves continue to follow the Creek through the Westchester Woods, LaGrange Park and North Riverside into Brookfield. After passing through the Brookfield Zoo grounds, Salt Creek flows into the Des Plaines River near First Avenue (Illinois Route 171) just north of Odgen Avenue in the Plank Road Meadow.
This article (with some modification) is taken from "Trails from Yesterday" written for the City of Elmhurst, 1977.
Last Modified: 08/27/2005